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4 Jul, 2017 10:58

Italy angry at Austria decision to deploy troops & armored vehicles to border

The Italian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Austrian ambassador over Vienna's decision to re-introduce border controls. The move comes as Austria announced it was ready to deploy troops and armored vehicles to the Italian border over the growing migrant inflow.

“We need to prepare for the migration development in Italy, and I expect very promptly that border controls will have to be activated and assistance requested,” Hans Peter Doskozil told the online edition of the Krone daily.

By assistance the official means deploying 750 soldiers and four armored vehicles to the border, and the minister described the measure as “indispensable if the influx doesn’t diminish.” The forces can be fully operational within 72 hours, according to Doskozil.

“These are not battle tanks. These are armored vehicles without weapons which could block roads. These were already used during the refugee crisis 201/16 at the Spielfeld border crossing [with Slovenia],” a spokesman for Doskozil said, as cited by Reuters.

The controls will include the Alpine Brenner pass, which forms the border between Austria and Italy, one of the main mountain passes in the eastern Alps.

There isn’t a strict time plan for the step-up in border security, but, according to Doskozil’s spokesman, “we see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has said that Vienna is prepared to "protect" the frontier with Italy "if necessary," as he spoke with the Austria Press Agency, as cited by AP.

Austrian ambassador to Italy Rene Pollitzer was summoned to the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Rome after the announcement of “deploying troops to the Brenner [pass],” according to the ministry’s official statement.

Austria has previously taken harsh measures at its borders: back in 2015, checks were introduced on the frontier with Hungary, and has geared to install barriers on the Italian border to the southwest.

The latest report by the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, estimated the number of migrants and refugees having arrived in Italy by sea this year at almost 85,000, with over 2,000 others having died or gone missing.

“This is not sustainable. We need to have other countries joining Italy and sharing that responsibility,” Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR'S special envoy for the central Mediterranean, said in Geneva, as cited by AFP.

Another alarming tendency highlighted by the latest report is that few of the migrants coming to Europe will be able to be granted asylum: 30 percent of them are fleeing conflict or persecution, while 70 percent of those arriving in Italy are economic migrants. Most migrants and refugees are young, single men with little or no education, and almost 15 percent are unaccompanied minors.

On Monday, the EU Commission announced that an action plan to diminish the illegal migration across Europe is set to be presented later on Tuesday. Neither Italy nor EU authorities have yet commented on the latest announcements.